By Brad Greer
In a game that had more twists and turns than a Six Flags rollercoaster, Magnolia Heights jumped out to a 28-6 lead early in the third quarter then held off a late rally by North Delta to take a 42-26 victory in Senatobia Friday night in the season opener for both schools.
Leading 21-6 at halftime, Magnolia Heights looked as if it would make it a runaway when Adam Webb hauled in a 58-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mac McDonald in the first play of the second half gave the No. 5 rated Chiefs a 28-6 lead. That woke up the Green Wave.
North Delta took the ensuing kickoff and marched 65 yards on six plays capped by Tres Brasell’s two-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed as Brasell was stopped short of the goal line leaving the score 28-12 with 9:27 remaining in the third quarter. The scoring drive was set up by a 57-yard pass completion from quarterback Derek Shawn to Bryan “B” Nickle.
Later in the quarter, the Green Wave capitalized on a bad snap that went over Magnolia Heights punter Jimmy Braswell’s head and rolled dead on the Chiefs 19-yard line. Nickle then took a quick snap and raced around the left end for a 19-yard run scamper with 4:26 left in the quarter. The two-point conversion failed as Shawn’s pass to Geri Lamm fell incomplete.
The Green Wave took advantage of another Magnolia Heights special teams blunder late in the fourth quarter when yet another snap sailed over Braswell’s head and was recovered by the Chiefs on their own seven-yard line. Brasell scored his second touchdown of the night two plays later as he broke a tackle on the one-yard line and spun into the endzone to make the score 28-26 after Shawn hooked up with Chris Reeves on the two-point conversion.
Shawn finished the night 6-of-26 passing for 138 yards and two interceptions.
Whatever momentum the Green Wave had was quickly doused on the first play from scrimmage following the kickoff as Thomas Zettergren raced 68 yards for a Magnolia Heights touchdown with 3:45 left in the game. The Chiefs then put the nail in the coffin after a North Delta turnover on the Waves’ 30 as fullback Josh Faught took an option pitch from McDonald and rumbled 30 yards for his fourth touchdown of the game. Will Morgan added the PAT to give the Chiefs a 42-26 advantage. Faught, who also had touchdown runs of 84, 73 and 4 yards, finished the night with 232 yards rushing on 15 carries.
“I was very proud of the way our kids played tonight. They could have folded up after it was 28-6 but did not. They fought back and made a game of it there at the end but that one big play took the wind out of us, “ said North Delta head coach Dan Werner. “ Special teams play and turnovers by both teams really made a difference. They made some big plays on defense and they made some mistakes on special teams as we did too. The thing that I was most proud of is the way we drove the ball down inside their 20 at the end of the game and had a chance to score but did not. Nevertheless they never quit.”
The game started out fast and furious in the first three minutes as both teams traded touchdowns. After North Delta punted on their opening series, Corbin Baker scooped up a Tyler Graves fumble on the Chiefs 31 and raced into endzone. Bill Gurley’s missed point after left the score 6-0.
Baker also added an interception that thwarted a Chief drive early in the fourth quarter. North Delta’s lead was short-lived as the Chiefs got on the board less than a minute later when Faught rambled 73 yards for a touchdown with 9:43 left in the first quarter with Morgan adding the PAT.
Magnolia Heights second touchdown came as a result of a bad snap over punter Carson Bailey’s head that was recovered on the Green Wave 13-yard line. Faught plunged over two players to make the score 14-6. Then with less than a minute to play before halftime, Faught busted a 84-yard run up the middle for the score.
The Chiefs rolled up 441 yards of offense on the night including 347 on the ground with 220 of that coming in the first half alone. North Delta meanwhile registered 67 yards rushing and 145 yards through the air for 212 yards. Nickle was the workhorse for the Green Waves by accounting for 187 all-purpose yards and one touchdown. The junior hauled in two catches for 97 yards while adding 72 yards in punt and kickoff returns. Nickle was also 1-for-1 passing for seven yards.
Brasell led the North Delta rushing attack with 78 yards on 18 totes. Baker, Lamm, John Cody Dalrymple, Michael Magee and Reeves all had one pass reception for the Waves on the night. Junior defensive linemen Will Reynolds led North Delta with seven tackles while John Paul Keel added a fumble recovery.
North Delta will remain on the road this week as they travel to Tunica for a 7:30 kickoff.